Freedom talk is good and we need more of it.

Gervase Markham asks “wouldn’t that be a great slogan for Firefox? “Firefox. Socially responsible browsing.” and Josh Aas, a Camino developer, responds that introducing some Free Software talk is something they “need to do a better job of”.

It would be a nice slogan for Firefox. But if the Mozilla Foundation has something to say about it, it won’t happen. The Mozilla Foundation is committed to the open source movement. The Open Source Initiative tries very hard to frame the debate in a way that pushes aside software freedom. I recommend reading the most insightful and respectful essay I’ve read on the difference between the two movements and why the differences matter.

I think it would be wonderful to see more programmers and more projects actively promote paying attention to software freedom and write some freedom talk. But instead I see many programmers become proponents of a message crafted to speak chiefly to business, a development methodology. The watered-down message of the open source movement is more widely circulated in the business press because it was built to be attractive to them—we can get hackers around the world working on our programs without paying them?

Faster development, fewer bugs, doing good development work for less money: these goals don’t address important ethical matters and they don’t necessarily give me the freedom to share and modify software. I have no problem with less buggy software which is developed faster and I want poor hackers to be able to hack and earn a living wage for it. There’s nothing wrong with running a business hacking software either, but the root problems for software development involve giving users rights, not catering to business all the time.